|Administrative History||Robert Laws (1851 - 1934) was leader of the Free Church (later United Free Church) of Scotland's Livingstonia Mission in northern Malawi and north-eastern Zambia, from 1878 until 1927. After attending primary school in Aberdeen, he was apprenticed as a cabinet maker, with the intention that he should follow his father into the trade. During this time he attended evening classes in the city, and subsequently matriculated at Aberdeen University, where he studied arts and medicine, graduating MA, 1872. After graduation he began a course of study at the United Presbyterian Seminary, Edinburgh, and took medical classes at Glasgow University and Anderson College, Glasgow. He was awarded the MB ChB degree at Aberdeen in 1875. |
When the Free Church of Scotland planned a mission to the shores of Lake Malawi, c 1875, Laws sought support from his United Presbyterian church to second him to the venture. He was ordained for missionary work by United Presbyterian Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1875 and joined the new mission as a medical officer, and second in command to Lieutenant E.D. Young. Young left the mission after two years, and Laws replaced him as head of the mission in 1878. He remained in post until retirement in 1927, and during his 50 years of service built a solid and stable base from which many other local and regional church, educational and social projects were successfully initiated. A centre for the mission's activities in Malawi and north-eastern Zambia, based upon Stewart's Lovedale, was founded after 1891 on Khondowe Mountain, and by 1894 all of Malawi was served by a Presbyterian mission. Laws himself, played an important role in the foundation of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in 1924, and the creation of a comprehensive primary school network for Zambia and Malawi. After the First World War he encouraged the mission's members to form Native Associations, which later, in 1938, became the Nyasaland African National Congress. Publications include a translation of the New Testament into Nyanja, the English - Nyanjia dictionary, and collections for the English - Gunda dictionary.
Laws married Margaret Troup Gray in 1879, and they had eight children, but only one daughter, Amelia, survived, born in 1886. Amelia was educated in Edinburgh and worked as a nurse-masseuse in Europe in the First World War. She graduated MB ChB in 1930, and later studied and practised osteopathy in London. She retired to Edinburgh but continued to practise osteopathy there into her nineties. She died in 1978.
For further details and additional references see 'Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology', ed. by Nigel M. de S. Cameron (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark Ltd., 1993) pp 473 - 474.
|Custodial History||The records were acquired by the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, under the directorship of Professor Andrew Walls, Department of Divinity, University of Aberdeen. They were transferred to Special Libraries and Archives when the Centre moved to Edinburgh c 1987, together with evidence heard at the World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh, 1910, (MS 3291), and the papers of Alexander Caseby, missionary (MS 3289).|